WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Steve Daines today spoke out about the lack of assistance available for tribal housing loan programs and called on Congress to find solutions to make loan programs more accessible for Montana’s tribes.
“If you don’t have a home, achieving other life needs is difficult. But with these high unemployment rates we see in Indian country, access to loans is very difficult. The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act, I believe, is an important law to facilitate access to housing for Native American communities,” Daines stated today during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on hearing on loan leveraging in Indian Country.
Today’s hearing was also attended by Robert Gauthier, a Ronan, Montana native and current administrator of the United Native American Housing Association, who shared testimony related to the challenges facing tribes and tribal housing opportunities.
Daines reflected on a meeting he held yesterday with members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, who expressed how important access to affordable home mortgages is to their members.
“My staff heard from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe similar concerns about the lack of access to technical assistance on loan programs coming through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Would you agree that there is a value to allowing the Native American Indian Housing Council, instead of HUD, the ability to provide that technical assistance to Tribes?” Daines asked witnesses during the hearing.
“Well, I definitely think it should be a partnership,” Gautheir responded. “The name of the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act — tribes should be teaching each other self-determination.”
“We believe Native people should teach Native people,” added Sami Jo Difuntorum, the Chairwoman of the National American Indian Housing Council. “We’re a fan of the National American Indian Housing Council being able to provide technical assistance directly to tribes. They should be able to call our office, ask for technical assistance and have it dispatched to them.”
Daines has previously worked toward reforms to provide Montana tribes with a greater ability to provide housing assistance to their people – including Native American veterans. In the House, Daines co-sponsored H.R. 3418, the Housing Native Heroes Act of 2013, which would authorize the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to carry out a rental assistance and supportive housing demonstration program, in conjunction with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA), for the benefit of Native American veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness and who are residing on or near Indian lands.
Daines also joined the Indian Affairs Committee in advancing four bills that will directly benefit Montana tribes.
The Committee today approved bills to improve child welfare laws, strengthen tribes’ self-governance and ability to control their own destinies, and streamline the ability for tribes to enter into agreements with the federal government to control and develop their own natural resources.
- S. 184, the Native American Children’s Safety Act, would create increased consistency and accountability within the foster care system by requiring background checks before foster care is ordered in a tribal court. In Montana, approximately 33% of the foster care population is Native American children.
- S. 209, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015, will reform and strengthen the existing program in order to streamline Montana tribes’ ability to enter into agreements with the federal government to have more control over development of their own natural resources.
- S. 246, Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act, would establish a Commission on Native Children within the Office of Tribal Justice to better address the problems and issues facing Native American youth.
- S. 286, a bill to amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to provide further self-governance by Indian tribes, provides significant reforms to the self-governance process— strengthening the government-to-government relationship between the federal government and giving more power to individual tribes.